Tag Archives: Everglades

Chronicles of a Chronic Complainer

 

Evening sun highlights ridges and clouds at the Grand Canyon

Evening sun highlights ridges and clouds at the Grand Canyon

 

Yes, I’m a card-carying member of The Chronic Complainers Club.

Oh sure, I have had stretches of success in recent years at being mostly thankful, seeing my world for the blessings contained in it, growing in daily gratitude. And I’ve written much about these good things.

But I cannot deny that lately my inner curmudgeon has found me again. My focus has turned toward a few unpleasant circumstances that have been bringing me down. As I’ve fallen into the old trap of dwelling on these negative thoughts, I’ve lost a positive perspective and have become miserable and cranky.

Today I’ve been reminded that being a critic of daily circumstances profits nothing. It initiates a downward spiral of mood and energy, dragging with it not only my own soul but also the heart of anyone within reach of the poisonous negativity.

My dear wife has tried to warn me that Chronic Complainer had moved back in, but of course the Curmudgeon was in no mood to concede.

It took a few texts with a dear friend over the topic of local weather to fully open my eyes to the reality of the attitude I have been cultivating. My friend lives in a region of bountiful lush green forests and rivers…that exist because of bountiful fall, winter, and spring rains. While my friend craves sunshine, she maintains a patient and hopeful vigil for it, and when the clouds break for even a few minutes to reveal temporary rays of sun, or a delicious orange-creamsicle sunrise before a return to plodding rain, she celebrates those brief moments – tasting, savoring, joyfully thanking God for his goodness in creation.

 

Sunrise and sunset can be equally glorious in Everglades National Park

Sunrise and sunset can be equally glorious in Everglades National Park

 

What a stark contrast to the texts I had been writing her lately. I’d been focusing narrowly on my discomfort with humidity and heat, and my world had shrunk to consist of nothing but my own misery and an obsessive desperation to fix the problem.

But her refusal to play victim during her long dark rainy season suddenly shone like a beacon of light into my own discouragement. I felt hope awaken as I realized that complaining is a choice. I don’t have to be a slave to discouragement. I’ve been granted the power to choose what I focus on. My mindset is up to me.

Hmm, mindset.
Mind. Set.
To set the mind.

Suddenly I’m reminded of the wisdom of an ancient man, a follower of Jesus named Paul, who wanted to encourage a group of new Jesus followers in their attitudes and actions, and so he said,

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

Paul wanted these young Christians to overflow with joy at the excellence and beauty that is their savior Jesus, and to be filled with thankfulness at all the incredible spiritual blessings that were now theirs because of the powerful grace and love of Christ. And he understood that it came about by setting their minds.

Set your mind. Be intentional. Take control of what’s coming into your brain, and focus it on the good.

 

The simple goodness of a flowering cherry tree branch against blue sky backdrop

The simple goodness of a flowering cherry tree branch against blue sky backdrop

 

In my next blog I’ll delve into a practical everyday way that I hope can effectively set my mind – a tool for enabling the hope-filled, joyful, positive life outlook that pushes the curmudgeon out the door.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my Chronic Complainers Club membership card tucked away in my wallet as a reminder, because I know full well that I’ll be needing to have this talk with myself again…


Considering Christ in Creation

 

Another year of traveling America searching for photographic art in creation has begun.

First stop on this road trip is the southernmost section of Everglades National Park, a place made visually famous by the work of a few gifted photographers who have spent an entire lifetime working the area to capture a handful of spectacular moments. But the problem for me is their portfolio images set a high bar of expectation for my eyeballs, so when I drove through the park for my first time last week and saw very ordinary views of flat grasslands and scrubby stunted trees, with precious little wildlife to be found, it was quite a letdown.

The first temptation was to ditch the place early, well before my week of campground reservations was up. Especially since the ‘greeting’ I received the first night at camp was twenty mosquito bites in five minutes and thirty of the bloodsuckers following me inside my trailer. But the strong inner drive to find and create compelling imagery thankfully surfaced as it usually does, and I determined to stick it out and see what work could be done here in this vast river of grass.

 

The pastel colors of dusk wash over a dwarf cypress forest

The pastel colors of dusk wash over a dwarf cypress forest

 

As I pushed through creative challenges of seeing beyond the seemingly ordinary surface of the place, and found some level of endurance for the accumulating mosquito bites now covering my entire body after several long days of scouting, some visual rewards were granted and I’m thankful to have a few pleasing compositions of flora & fauna to share in this blog space today.

 

A beautiful barred owl sitting quietly in a cypress tree was a great reward at day's end

A beautiful barred owl sitting quietly in a cypress tree was a great reward at day’s end

 

The flower of a lily pad opens up to the afternoon sun along the Anhinga Trail

The flower of a lily pad opens up to the afternoon sun along the Anhinga Trail

 

When my photographic work feels difficult like it has here in the ‘Glades, it can be easy for me to forget that my foundational purpose for being out in creation is to see & savor the glory of God, to effortlessly worship him as I take delight in the works of his hands. I realized today that amid the mosquitos and the mundane I needed to rely on not just the inspiration of the moment to lead my heart to a worshipful state, but I also needed to cultivate that heart of worship. To be intentional about making much of God no matter the conditions.

And so today as I sit down at my campsite in the Everglades to share photos and writing, I want to take a moment to intentionally exalt God’s work in creation, to point to his glory, but from a perspective that has not always been obvious to me – that is, the work of Christ in creation.

Most of us who are Christian refer to God the Father as creator, a fact that we easily understand and acknowledge in our faith. But there is a deeper level to this basic truth that drops the jaw of my heart in awe, and it is this: the Jesus I know as God’s Son, the gentle Lamb of God born as a baby in the Middle East, who walked this earth and laid down his life so that rebels like me could be forgiven and granted new spiritual life, this Savior who is my King and my Comforter and my Friend –  is also the Creator of all the beauty I behold in the natural world.

Christ is the Maker of it all!

The first chapter of John reveals this glory for us:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him,
and without him was not any thing made that was made. 
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

So much spectacular mystery and majesty here! The God who became man so he could rescue fallen creatures, this Jesus who has granted me freedom by his astounding grace and love, the one I worship as Savior and who gently shepherds my life, is the powerful and creative force behind these sublime landscapes and occasional wildlife I chase across the country.

Another layer of the onion is peeled as I peer more deeply into the person of Christ. And my worship is deepened.

 

Cypress trees silhouetted against a rich sunset sky in Everglades NP

Cypress trees silhouetted against a rich sunset sky in Everglades NP


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